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New Series!

Tacoma Arts Live and KBTC partner to spotlight Pierce County neighborhoods

By Jared Wigert, Tacoma Arts Live

Photo courtesy of Tacoma Arts Live

While the average citizen would likely need assistance with an internet search to identify the boundaries of the various districts of Pierce County, they would recognize the rich and varied histories of each distinct neighborhood. The story of Tacoma is one that ranges from the inspiring and beautiful to challenging and obscene. Tacoma Arts Live and KBTC Public television have launched a series of short films, Reflections in the Shadow of Tahoma, set to pay homage to the people and events that have shaped that story, from the past to the present. From the industrious: farmers, logging and military, to disgraceful: Japanese internment camps, seizure of Indigenous peoples’ lands, Chinese expulsion; and finally hopeful: Nettie Asberry, contributions from Latinx and Vietnamese communities; Pierce County’s story is as nuanced as it is intriguing. Each installment will star local performers honoring different stories through various art forms. The project, which is funded through support from Pierce County and Tacoma Creates, will appear on KBTC public television and through both organizations’ websites and social media platforms.

The performers involved and topics included are:

Former Tacoma Poet Laureate Abby E. Murray, reading her original work Tahoma Doesn’t Love You. The poem tackles the timeless nature of the land we inhabit, and the wild spaces of the Tahoma watershed and how it connects to our lives as people of the region.

The series will also commemorate the immigrant experience, particularly that of the Latinx community. Featuring Claudia Castro-Luna, current Washington State Poet Laureate, accompanied by local group Trio Guadalevin, whose music explores the ties between the Americas and southern Europe.

Multi-faceted artists Joe Seamons and Ben Hunter commemorate the agrarian roots of our community as they explore history through their instruments. The pair have been honored with the Gordon Ekvall Tracie Memorial Award for excellence in ethnic performance and significant contributions to the development and presentation of the traditional cultural arts in the Pacific Northwest.

The next vignette features the story of the Việt Hương Community Garden, told through song by the Tacoma Refugee Choir. They will be singing “Scent of Memories,” a specially commissioned song based on interviews with the community elders.

The experience of the Black community will be explored through the words of activist Nettie Asberry. Local actress and Tacoma Arts Live teaching artist, LaNita Hudson performs a dramatic reading of Asberry’s famous “Birth of a Nation” protest letter to the press.

Pierce County was the location of the Puyallup Assembly Center, a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. An excerpt from Nihonjin Face, an original all-ages play by Janet Hayakawa and Tere Martinez that was originally commissioned by Tacoma Arts Live for their Civil Rights Legacy series, will be shown.

Local artist—and leader of the Tacoma Refugee Choir—Erin Guinup has written and recorded “I Feel Your Pain,” a song about listening to and supporting marginalized members of the community. This video will highlight work being done by organizations and individuals throughout Pierce County.

The series also spotlights the history of Joint Base Lewis-McCord, and the role the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary Buffalo Soldiers played in its founding. While Camp Lewis wasn’t officially formed until 1917, the 9th Calvary had been performing maneuvers in the area as early as 1904, producing important topographical surveys. For more than a hundred years, the base—and regiments associated with it—have played an important role in the region’s development. Actor Eric Clausell will star, performing a monologue from the play Thurgood.

Collectively, Reflections in the Shadow of Tahoma shares a complex story of our region shaped by powerful personalities and struggles. It is a story of triumph, both in the narratives and artistry through which they are shared. While many of the stories confront the communities’ troubled past, they do so through a prism of beauty and hope. The series is an important record, as well as a call to action for the collective community’s path forward.

Each of the pieces will be available through both Tacoma Arts Live and KBTS’ various platforms in 2021.

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